Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Getting our heads around blogs, forums, Twitter and facilitation

At today's online meeting we had a great discussion about networking, facilitation and the difference between blogs, forums and Twitter. The recording of today's meeting can be found here.

I think it is important to understand the difference between a discussion forum and blog so that you can then go on to recognise how to use facilitation in those different forums. A blog is a web site that is under the personal control of the owner. It can be used for personal reflection, disseminating information, creating discussions and networking. Ultimately, its use is dictated by the blog owner. A forum is collectively owned by the people who use it to discuss issues. There will be a forum owner or moderator who makes the rules and keeps track on what is going on in the forum.

Twitter is synchronous communication tool. It is an instant message system whereby you can only use up to 140 characters. It is used for disseminating information, connecting with people, giving out your personal ideas and thoughts, advertising synchronous events, and as another form of RSS. Some people use Twitter to advertise their latest blog post. I use Twitter to keep in touch with people, while my blog posts tend to be a deeper reflection of what I have been doing and thinking.

Here is what Problogger has to say about Twitter and blogging. And here is another conversation about the pros and cons of Twitter and blogs on Steve Wheeler's blog.

If you want to follow conversations on Twitter, follow the tags (hashtags #) that are put on tweets to identity them. A lot of people use a tool called Tweetdeck that allows them to do this.

Blogging network
A blogging network is a group of blogs that connect together. This may be under the umbrella of an organization or company. One example of this is the Education Australia that has an online platform called "edna", which includes personal blogs.

In my experience, the more dynamic blogging networks are formed naturally as a result of people's interests and desire to communicate with each other. A blogging network will not suddenly form just because you have set up a blog or collection of blogs. You will become a part of a blogging network and/or community when you regularly read other blogs, leave comments, join discussions, take the discussion back to your blog, and link with other blogs.

Sue Waters and Edublogger
A good example of blogging networks and facilitation is the work of Sue Waters. Sue set up her own blog a few years ago to help teachers to learn more about the use of technology in their teaching practice. As a result, her blog has become a major link in a network of educators who blog and use social media and technology in education. She is now employed by The Edublogger and facilitates free online meetings for her network.

So my message to you this week is: if you want to find active blogging networks, you need to look beyond constructed blogging groups to the informal networks that have formed as a result shared interests and commitment to blogging and communication.

A few blog posts to look at
There have been some really interesting blog posts written by course participants this fortnight. Debra is getting her head around what a blog is and how it can be used. Rachel has picked up a few good tips about blogging which are to write regular posts, post from your experience and use a clean blog design. Catherine has challenged me to reflect on how I have been facilitating this course. In her latest blog post, she talks about the differences between a teacher, moderator and facilitator. Stephen's post about forums and facilitation has attracted some interesting discussion. In particular I have enjoyed Nancy White's definition of the difference between community and networks. She says "community often “nests” inside of networks". And the other post I followed a link to was that of WiserEarth in which Angus talked about 'weaving' a community as opposed to facilitating it.


Image: 'Rosie the Blogger' Mike Licht,


Anonymous said...


It is sometimes hard to keep a track of new developments with online technologies. Separating what is relevant and what isn't is the first step so thanks for this. I have blogged a bit on this at Please take a look and let us know what you think.

Adam Wentworth.

Sarah Stewart said...

Thanks Adam. I also think it's a matter of getting stuck in and experimenting, seeing what suits you best.

Stephen Blyth said...

I thought I'd bring to the surface some facilitation that you've presented to us in this post - summarised posts by different students and created a relationship between the separate blog posts. Plus this acts as a spur to check out the other posts (which is what I'm doing now).

Sarah Stewart said...

Thanks Stephen...I must confess that it was Rachel's blog post that got me thinking a little more about what I could be doing as facilitator :)

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